English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Why is Geography is sometimes pejoratively referred to "Advanced Colouring In" as a subject? I have seen people use it as a joke but I don't understand what the joke is about.

share|improve this question
It is a joke. It suggests that geography is not a serious academic subject and not much of an advance on the way in which children use colouring books. It is not really a matter of English language and usage, so I'm voting to close the question. – Barrie England Nov 10 '12 at 11:17
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's a deliberate misunderstanding of the subject, reducing it to maps:

Political map of the United States of America

Political maps like this are a classical four-colour problem akin to a child's colouring book.

share|improve this answer
I think you've nailed it, Andrew! (Introduction to Coloring in Geography (GEO 101) refers to crayons and maps. In Advanced Coloring in Geography (GEO 201), the students only get four crayons.) Either way, geography is a subject that goes well with the activity of coloring, and the phrase as a whole suggests academic credit for a non-academic endeavor, not unlike Basket Weaving. – J.R. Nov 10 '12 at 11:54
Geography as a subject as a whole, of course, goes well beyond colouring; it encompasses climate and geology and may even include historical context for the building of settlements. Reducing it to just a colouring exercise because of maps is how it's made the butt of the joke. – Andrew Leach Nov 10 '12 at 12:03
I understood that, too; I didn't bother to reference that part, though, because I thought you had covered that already in your opening statement. But (lest anyone be confused), for the record, you and I agree: it's Coloring that makes the exercise non-academic, not Geography. – J.R. Nov 10 '12 at 12:07
In The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell says this: "I know that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography [emphasis added]." Read this just last night. – user21497 Nov 11 '12 at 5:23

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.